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Israel’s ‘inequality in higher education access’

Access to Israel’s universities and higher education colleges is determined by performance in the twelfth-grade matriculation exams, with most HE institutions requiring a pass in English. In ‘English as a Gatekeeper’, Yariv Feniger and Hanna Ayalon of Ben-Gurion and Tel Aviv universities respectively look at the likelihood that Jews and Arabs will enrol in a university within eight years of leaving high school.


One fifth of Israel’s population are Arabs, who go through a separate (and worse resourced) school system to Jews, who only have Hebrew and English as compulsory languages. Arab students in Israel have to study Arabic as well.

With impressive statistics to support their reasoning, the study in the International Journal of Higher Education claims the extra compulsory language for Israeli Arabs puts them at a disadvantage. Fewer Arabs (49.8 per cent of ‘Muslims and Druze’) end up passing English and going on to higher education. This compares with between 75 per cent and 64 per cent of various Jewish demographic groups.

The authors argue that the deciding factor keeping more Arabs out of university is their lower pass rate in English at matriculation. In maths there’s no significant disparity in matriculation scores between Jews and Arabs. An examination of control groups (Israel’s Christians have their own school system) and a factoring-out of other possible causes lend weight to their findings.